Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fabric Divided Baskets

I have wanted to make these fabric divided baskets for ages, and now that I have my own business in home-based childcare I had the perfect excuse to buy the pattern and whip them up!

All the children come with their own nappies and wipes and they need to each have their own changing mats, so I needed a way to organise my nappy change station so I didn't get them all mixed up. I could have bought woven baskets or plastic containers but buying four of the sort I liked ended up being way too pricey. I love that I now have the skills to make myself items that are unique and save me money at the same time!

Once again, I have used an Anna Graham design. You can purchase the pattern here. Anna is way too clever. I can follow a pattern easily but I have no idea how she thought up the basket design and then made a pattern that actually works! So much of sewing seems to be inside-out and upside-down (probably not technically correct but it feels like that at times). There are times when I look at pattern pieces and read instructions and have no idea how it could possibly come together. Much of sewing seems to be a lesson in trust. I have to remind myself that the designer has way more knowledge than I do and I just need to do as they say. Those of you who know me in real life will know why learning that lesson is good for me! Thankfully, with Anna's patterns that trust is rewarded and they all come together beautifully.

I love the finishing touches to the divided baskets. The pockets on the side are finished with bias binding and the fabric-wrapped handles are another clever touch. They both work together to give the baskets a little bit of added colour and interest. The fabric itself is from Spotlight and has a cute space theme, as once again I seem to be surrounded by boys. I seem to be destined to have boys in my life - brothers, a son, and now boys that I care for as well. I probably wouldn't know what to do with a pink fairy themed fabric!

The best thing is the baskets work perfectly. They hold the children's nappies, wipes, change mat, barrier cream, and I can even slide their sun creams down the side. I have to be super organised with a handful of little ones at home and these baskets have really helped. I also think they would be perfect for children's bedrooms. I can see my little boy's dinosaurs being stored in one half of the basket and his sea creatures in the other. They would also be gorgeous as a baby shower gift made in fabrics that co-ordinated with the baby nursery and packed full with baby goodies. I can see myself using this pattern many times. The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Runaround Bag

I am lucky enough to have a very gorgeous 13 year old niece and while all my nieces and nephews are pretty special I have a wee soft spot for this particular girl. You see, like me when I was growing up, the poor girl is surrounded by brothers. She has three brothers and I have four. Neither of us have a sister and she only has one female cousin! So I have a certain amount of empathy for her in this situation and decided she deserved something pretty and feminine. I'm sure she thinks her brothers are great really (as I do too!) but sometimes you just need a little bit of girlishness about the place! 

I decided to make her a bag and showed her a number of patterns from different websites and blogs that she could choose from. I love that she chose the Runaround Bag, an Anna Graham pattern. Anna's blog, Noodlehead, was one of the first sewing blogs I read and she has a great range of tutorials and patterns. My very first sewing project, a drawstring backpack, was from one of her tutorials. Her patterns are always so easy to follow and the results are always spot on.

My niece asked for red fabric and because we don't live in the same town I had to shop on my own and just hope that I got it right. It's been a while since I was a 13 year old girl so I was a bit nervous about this part! I picked a pink fabric for the lining which featured red cherries. The red & pink combination ended up looking great and added a bit of brightness and fun to the bag.

I've made quite a few bags but love the extra features of this design which make it really pretty and feminine. The pleats on the front and back of the bag add a bit of interest as does the gathering where the main panels are attached to the straps.

The bag also has an interior pocket and I chose the zippered option so my niece could safely keep her phone and keys without worrying that they might fall out and get lost. A magnetic snap closes the bag. When I first started out sewing I had thought that installing magnetic snaps must be tricky but they are super easy and, in my opinion, a must-have for this type of bag. Like all Noodlehead patterns, this pattern gives clear instructions for installing the snap. If you don't have the pattern and want to install a magnetic snap on another bag Anna has written a really helpful tutorial which can be found here.

The exterior and interior of the bag are sewn together with bias binding which I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with. I still find it a bit fiddly to sew sometimes but love the way it finishes off your sewing and gives it a great completed look.

I'm really happy with the way the bag turned out and, more importantly, so was my niece. I wasn't there when she received it but apparently she gave it a thorough going-over, checking all my sewing out, before declaring it a success. I loved this project and have decided you have to be extra happy when you get the seal of approval from a 13 year old girl!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day - Family Style

There was a time, before we had our son, that my husband and I would have bought each other expensive presents for Valentine's Day and gone out for dinner at an expensive restaurant. 

This year it's going to be different. There will not be expensive gifts. There will not be a fancy dinner at an expensive restaurant. 

Instead the three of us will gather in our kitchen, make burgers together and then we will sit down at our dining room table and admire the gorgeous table decorations our son has been busy making this week. 

Pink hearts will hang from the ceiling. Made with the joy, determination and wonder that two year olds express so perfectly. 

 The table cloth will be littered with tiny pink hearts.

And our plates will rest on beautiful place mats that remind us of all that is important to our family.

And then we will exchange tiny homemade gifts that we can take with us wherever we go to remind us of our special evening and our love for each other.

No, there won't be expensive gifts. There won't be fancy restaurants. There will be the three of us around our table, eating a simple, family-friendly dinner we prepared ourselves. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Boy's Shorts

At two and a half years of age my little boy is becoming more independent and wanting to do many more things all by himself. This includes dressing and undressing himself. I quickly realised we needed some new shorts that were really easy to pull up and down. They needed to have an elastic band and no tricky zips or buttons. I decided to use this pattern from Made. The Kid Shorts pattern is so great - the pattern has options for both boys and girls and then lots of different variations. Each variation has a tutorial online accompanied by detailed instructions and clear photos of each step. You really can't go wrong!

I decided to go with the flat front option and front pockets and love the result. The flat front gives them a really professional store-bought look and the pockets are just super cute!

I top stitched the pockets of the black pair with a bright aqua blue thread and lined the pockets with a blue fabric which just peeks out at the seams to add a little interest. The lining fabric is patterned with all sorts of tools, just perfect for boy's shorts, and while you can't see them most of the time my son knows they are there and likes to keep his hands in the pockets of this pair!

I decided to add back pockets to the shorts so I used the pattern pieces and instructions from Titchy Threads' Small Fry Skinny Jeans pattern. I'm so pleased I added these back pockets. They give the shorts an extra bit of detail (and they look pretty cute when my little boy is running away from me!) 

The fit is fantastic and with elastic in the back they have proven to be really easy for my little boy to dress and undress himself.  He has lived in them this summer and it has certainly been a summer full of running, climbing, swinging and more running - they must be pretty comfortable as they haven't seemed to slow him down any! With sizes from 12 months up to 10 years I can certainly see it being my go-to pattern for shorts for many years to come. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Drawer Labels for Kids

I'm a big believer in kids doing things for themselves if they are able. But alongside that we have to help them out. I think as parents it's our job to teach them how to be independent and to provide them with tools to help them out along the way.

And with that, I present . . . drawer labels!

Now, I'm aware that some people might think it's a little crazy to label your kid's drawers so I'm going to start with my reasons for doing this for my son:

  • At two and a half years of age it's a developmentally appropriate task to begin to dress himself, which means he has to find his clothes.
  • Sometimes we're in a hurry and I ask him to quickly grab his hat. Yeah right - quickly is not in his vocabulary and then the later we get the more stressed I get. It's not really fair to get grumpy at him if I've ask him to do something that's too difficult.
  • Labels mean I can quickly grab something without having to think if I've got a million other things on my mind.
  • We often have people come and stay and labels mean they can easily help out too.
  • He can start to help with putting his own laundry away in the right place.
  • And it's just so nice to see how proud he is of himself when he can successfully manage finding his own clothes.

So I began by taking photos of each category of clothing he has. Thanks to my fanatical ways the clothes were already organised within the drawers, I just needed to photograph items of clothes that he was very familiar with and would recognise as representing each category. (As an aside, I just love this chest of drawers that we bought him. They're nothing fancy but they have the perfect number of drawers and everything is just the right height for him. So important when you're teaching independence).

I'm aware that I don't want our house looking like a classroom with everything labelled so any labels I make need to look a little presentable. Enter PicMonkey!

I love how easy (and free!) PicMonkey is to use. I uploaded my photos in PicMonkey's Collage feature and used 100% 'rounded corners' so I had perfectly round pictures. Then I used PicMonkey Editor to label the photos. 

I printed the labels, stuck them onto scrapbooking card, cut them out and laminated them with the help of my ever-present assistant.  

I had a few fancy ideas of how to attach the labels without marking the drawers but in the end I just used blu-tack. They're staying on really well and so far my son has shown no desire to take them all off and throw them around his room! 

So there you have it. Drawer labels. Yes, I know, slightly geeky. But I'm OK with that because it makes my life easier and my little boy is learning how to independently manage himself and his belongings. I'm hoping one day his future partner will thank me for this! 

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Sewing a Travel Felt Board

I remember as a kid always wanting a felt board. I'm not sure where I saw them - perhaps in toy stores? Regardless, they were something I always coveted. Even as an adult without kids I loved looking at them and was certain that I would buy my future child every sort available!

So I got quite over-excited when a friend asked me if I thought I could make one for her two-year-old to use in the car. I love the way my design worked so much that I made one for my son too!

For a felt board to be used successfully in a car seat it needs to have a hard surface. Luckily I found a perfectly sized, light, thin piece of wood that could easily be concealed in what is essentially a felt 'envelope'. And while the felt board is a great 'travel' size it can be made even smaller by removing the board. Great when space is at a premium.

The cool thing about the envelope design is the wooden board can easily be removed by an adult which allows the felt board to be rolled up and easily stashed away in travel situations that don't require the hard surface. So when traveling by plane, roll up the felt board, stash it in your carry-on, and use it on your fold-out tray. Or when visiting grandma, or dining at a restaurant, it can be carried in a nappy bag and used on the table.

I decided to use a variety of shapes for the felt pieces. This way the pieces work much like a tangram and can be placed together in all sorts of ways to make different pictures. I love that this makes play with the board more open-ended and really works to extend my son's imagination and creativity.  The fun thing is watching people make pictures that you hadn't even thought possible!

And then when play is finished the felt pieces are easily tidied up into a little drawstring bag that is stashed in the slip pocket on the back of the board. I've made sure that there are no difficult fastenings so little fingers can manage the board independently. The last thing I need when I'm driving is my wee one throwing a tantrum because he can't get to the pieces he needs!

I recently put the felt board to the test on a 4 hour drive and it was a life saver. My son played with it by himself and then after a while there was silence. I looked over my shoulder and saw that he had tidied up all the pieces himself, packed them away and fallen asleep. Magic!

(The Busy Little Tinkers Travel Felt Board is available for sale in my Felt shop here). 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Painting Our Own Bunting

My little boy loves painting but we are accumulating a bit of a pile of very similar masterpieces and I don't know what to do with them all. There are only so many identical pictures that you can hang on your family room wall! So I decided I'd gently guide him to paint something a little different that we could later cut up and turn into bunting to brighten up his room.

He loves using the roller and it results in such a great effect so I decided we would use the roller to paint four sheets of paper a different colour each. This gave us lots of opportunity to discuss and name different colours too.

We were so pleased with the results and left them on the table to dry.

Later in the afternoon we cut them up . . .

and I sewed them all together on the sewing machine. I've never sewn paper before but it works just the same as fabric! I had a great little helper passing me the individual flags and keeping a close eye on my sewing.

And there you have it - bunting painted by a 2 year old!

Later in the year when he goes into his 'big boy' bed I'm going to re-do his room and I'll sew him some proper bunting then. But for now his painted bunting really brightens up his room and he's super proud of the fact that he painted it all by himself!